The one-ship navy of Ukraine didn’t go down without a fight against the Russians. The ship finally fell to the Russians on Tuesday, but after some cleaver maneuvering from the people aboard the ship. The Ukrainians were trying to keep the ship as one last stronghold against the Russians in the Black Sea region, and the sailors aboard gave it their all.
Its escape to the open seas blocked by sunken ships, the Ukrainian minesweeper Cherkassy weaved and lurched in a narrow gulf on Tuesday afternoon with a symbolic, if inevitably brief, distinction: the last Ukrainian military vessel in Crimea not yet seized by the Russian navy.
From the banks of the gulf cutting into the western flank of the peninsula from the Black Sea, the Russians watched the trapped, constantly moving ship, then dispatched patrol boats to chase and bump the stubborn vessel in several unsuccessful capture attempts.
All other Ukrainian vessels blockaded in the same gulf, known as the Donuzlav Lake, had been seized in recent weeks.
On Tuesday night, the Russians tried again to seize the minesweeper. There was gunfire, explosions and smoke grenades, while helicopters hovered above the craft.
Officials at the Russian military base on the gulf declined to comment during the standoff on Tuesday.
The maritime drama has made enemies of sailors from two navies that have long trained, lived and studied together.
Born of a single Soviet mother, the Russian Black Sea Fleet and its Ukrainian counterpart went their separate ways after the breakup of the Soviet Union, splitting up old Soviet ships between the two of them.